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Posts for February, 2014

VIDEO: Ugandan TV Coverage of Signing of Anti-Gay Bill, Reactions from Supporters

Jim Burroway

February 25th, 2014
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MP David Bahati, who introduced the private member’s bill into Parliament, reacted to the signing:

This is a victory for the family of Uganda, the future of our children and certainly a triumph of our sovereignty as a country that got independence fifty years ago.

Ethics and Integrity Minister Simon Lokodo (a defrocked Catholic priest) dismissed the potential international fallout from the bill:

Because I know any sensible person will take this positively and say, oh, this bill as asserted their position, they’ve asserted their mind, and let’s respect them as they are and we’ll continue relating.

The NTV report erroneously states that first-time offenders against the new Anti-Homosexuality Act “would face up to fourteen years in jail.” In fact, the final act as signed into law sets a penalty of lifetime imprisonment regardless if whether it is a first conviction or not.

Unconfirmed Reports: Museveni May Have Signed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Jim Burroway

February 20th, 2014

CNN’s Mike Krever quoted Ethics and Integrity Member (and defrocked former priest) Simon Lokodo:

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has just signed that bill, according to the minister, but has not yet handed it over to parliament.

It’s not clear to me whether Lokodo is much of an insider in Museveni’s government. He may be speaking out of personal knowledge, but he also may be working with second-hand information.  Meanwhile, the Uganda Media Centre, the president’s official press office, posted the following contradictory statement on its Facebook page earlier today:

Press Statement
February, 20, 2014

Government statement on the Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Following the passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill by the Parliament of Uganda in December, 2013, fears have been expressed by sections of the international community that this could lead to the persecution of some sections of Ugandan society.

The 1995 Constitution is the supreme law of Uganda.

Article 21(1)… of the said Constitution states “All persons are equal before and under the law in all spheres of political, economic, social and cultural life and in every other respect and shall enjoy equal protection of the law.

Article 21(2) states “Without prejudice to clause (1) of this article, a person shall not be discriminated against on the grounds of sex, race, colour, ethnic origin, tribe, birth, creed or religion, social or economic standing, political opinion or disability.”
Government of Uganda reiterates its commitment to uphold and protect the fundamental rights and freedoms of all persons in Uganda as guaranteed by the Constitution.

No person shall be prosecuted outside the provisions of the law.

Government of Uganda therefore reassures all Ugandans and the international community of its continued commitment and respect for the rule of law in Uganda.

Ofwono Opondo
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR/GOVERNMENT SPOKESPERSON
UGANDA MEDIA CENTRE

The Facebook comments to that post show that the statement is throwing everyone into confusion: Did he/will he sign the bill?

Ugandan Police Arrest British Producer of Play About Gay Community

Jim Burroway

September 13th, 2012

David Cecil waves from a court cell at the Makindye Court on Thursday in Kampala, Uganda (AFP)

Last month, we reported on a pro-gay stage play, “The River and the Mountain,” which premiered at a small theater in Uganda after the government banned its performance at the National Theater. The play’s producer, British citizen David Cecil, has since been arrested on charges that he had the play performed without official authorization. He appeared in court today, charged with “disobeying lawful orders” and was ordered held without bail. If found guilty, Cecil would face a two year sentence:

The Ugandan Media Council sent a letter to David Cecil, producer of The River and the Mountain, on 16 August saying it was considering whether to grant the play clearance to be performed. “In the meantime,” read the letter, “this play is not to be staged in any theatre or public place in Uganda.” The play’s run at the National Theatre was cancelled but it was performed at two small venues in the capital Kampala.

“I was called in by the police and spoken to by several officers from the media offences department of the CID [Criminal Investigation Directorate],” said Cecil. “They said that by staging the play I have disobeyed the Media Council, which is a public authority. I’ve been charged with that offence and they are now considering whether to press on with the case. But I had only taken their letter to be advisory, not the law.”

The Guardian’s report last week  indicates that Ethics and Integrity Minister Simon Lokodo is behind the ban:

Ugandan ethics minister Simon Lokodo said the play was not granted clearance because “this play is justifying the promotion of homosexuality in Uganda, and Uganda does not accommodate homosexual causes. We will put pressure on anyone saying that this abomination [homosexuality] is acceptable.”

A scene from “The River and the Mountain,” as posted on the play’s Facebook page.

Lokodo, a defrocked former Catholic priest, has led raids against two conferences to discuss human rights for LGBT people. He also announced that he would try to ban thirty-eight NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) for “receiving support from abroad for Uganda’s homosexuals” so that LGBT people in Uganda could ““recruit” young children into homosexuality.

A report with Radio Netherlands provides this timeline:

‘The River and the Mountain’ ran from 17 to 23 August in a small cultural centre in Kampala managed by Cecil and his girlfriend.

On 6 September, Cecil was charged for ignoring an advance warning from the Uganda Media Council that the play was not to be staged until official “clearance” was obtained. The warning was issued on 16 August, the day before the play premiered. On 29 August, after the showings had ended, the Media Council ruled that the play was not to be staged because parts of the production “implicitly promote homosexual acts”, which “are contrary to the laws, cultural norms and values of Uganda”.

Cecil says he and British playwright Beau Hopkins, together with Ugandan director Angella Emurwon and the Ugandan actors, decided to go ahead with the staging because the Media Council’s initial warning letter “in no way” made reference to any potential legal consequences. Cecil says: “Even my Ugandan lawyer read the letter and said: ‘It does not clearly constitute a legal order’.”

Cecil said that if the original warning was clearer, he probably would not have staged the play. The British citizen also says he has “fallen into the trap” of local politicians who regularly charge that homosexuality is “un-African” and is being “imported” by Westerners.

Ugandan Gays Now Allowed To Meet? Anti-Homosexuality Bill “Shelved”?

Jim Burroway

June 22nd, 2012

That’s what the Associated Press is reporting. But I think it’s safe to say that the best way to approach this AP article is to read it and then believe the opposite. It has two whoppers: 1) it claims that the Ugandan government says that LGBT advocates are now free to meet, and 2) that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill has been “shelved.” From what I’m seeing, neither appears correct.

Let’s take the first point first. In response to growing international criticism over two recent raids of gay rights conferences, the Ugandan government issued this statement signed by Ethics and Integrity Minister Simon Lokodo:

Kampala

Uganda has come under criticism for intervening in a gay activists’ meeting that was taking place at a Hotel in a city suburb early this week. Police intervened in the meeting that was suspected to be promoting gay activities and questioned the participants who were later released.

The Government would like to state that much as promoting gay activities is illegal according to Section 145 of the Penal code Act, Uganda does not segregate against people of a different sexual orientation.

No government official is bent to harass any section of the community and everybody in Uganda enjoys the freedom to lawfully assemble and associate freely with others.

Cultural attitudes in Africa are very different to elsewhere in the world, 2/3 of African countries outlaw homosexual activity and 80% of East African countries criminalize it. Whilst at a global level more than 80 countries outlaw homosexual acts.

The government would like to encourage all Ugandans to be vigilant and stay away from unlawful activities that would get them in trouble with the law.

Rev.Fr. Simon Lokodo
Minister of Ethics and Integrity

Lokodo continues to sign himself as “Rev. Fr.” even though he was defrocked by the Vatican last year. So already you know something of the veracity of the man’s statements. But look at what he says in the second paragraph. He references Section 145 of the Uganda penal code and claims that it makes LGBT advocacy illegal. But this is what the code actually says:

Section 145
Unnatural offences

Any person who
(a) has carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature;
(b) has carnal knowledge of an animal; or
(c) permits a male person to have carnal knowledge of him or her against the order of nature, commits an offence and is liable to imprisonment for life.

As far as I know, no one was having any sort of carnal knowledge at the conference that Lokodo broke up earlier this week. Everyone I saw in the news reports were fully clothed. What’s more, when he appeared on Ugandan television to talk about the raid, he used Section 145 to justify his actions then. His predecessor used the same justification to cancel the screening of a documentary that included LGBT human rights workers in 2010. This latest statement posted on the Ugandan Media Centre’s web site merely repeats what Lokodo said on Monday when he took credit for the raid. And not only did he use Section 145 to justify the raid, he closes this statement with a warning to ” stay away from unlawful activities that would get them in trouble with the law” — or at least his strange reading of Section 145 of that law. The Associated Press’s report has woefully misread Lokodo’s statement.

But it does appear that Lokodo has become an embarrassment for the Ugandan government. Whenver we see confusion being sown like this, it often comes during times of heightened international scrutiny. The AP claims to have spoken with an un-named official who says that Lokodo was told to tone things down. If so, then this confusing and contradictory statement appears to be the product of that order. Its appearance on the official Ugandan Media Centre web site, which is an official press clearing house for the Ugandan government, suggests that the government is feeling the pressure. But it also can be read as trying to ease the pressure without committing to any changes in policy.

As for the second point the Associated Press got wrong:

Parliamentarian David Bahati said at the time that homosexuals deserved to die for recruiting young, impoverished children into gay culture by luring them with money and the promise of a better life.

The bill has since been shelved. Uganda’s president said it hurt the country’s image abroad. The bill has been condemned by some world leaders, with U.S. President Barack Obama describing it as “odious.”

But the bill is highly popular among local Anglican and Pentecostal clerics. Some recently petitioned the authorities to quickly pass it. Bahati said he had been “assured” that the bill would be passed one day.

How many times have we seen reports like this before in the past three years? There have been numerous false reports claiming, variously, that the death penalty has been removed (it hasn’t) or that the bill has been shelved (it hasn’t). The bill died briefly at the close of the Eighth Parliament, only to be revived again in the Ninth.  The bill is currently in the hands of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee. The Associated Press is just one more in a long line of news outlets to get this wrong.

What’s more, it was just last Tuesday when Bahati said that Parliament would take up the bill during its next session. That next session begins next week. Bahati should know what he’s talking about: he’s the caucus chairmain for the ruling National Resistance Movement in Parliament.

Ugandan LGBT Activist Vows to Defy Ban

Jim Burroway

June 20th, 2012

UK’s The Guardian has some additional information about the Ugandan government’s announcement that they will ban 38 non-governmental organizations which include LGBT issues among their human rights concerns. Frank Mugisha, executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, sees this move as being part of a much wider deterioration of human rights guarantees in Uganda:

Frank Mugisha, head of the NGO Sexual Minorities Uganda, said the minister’s ban was part of a wider assault on civil society in Uganda. “The government is trying to use homosexuality to crack down on freedom of expression and freedom of assembly,” he said. “If NGOs are closed down, they will not be able to support human rights.

“Simon Lokodo is very homophobic but it’s coupled with politics. He’s trying to gain popularity and make his name. The president should come out and distance himself from Lokodo.”

Sexual Minorities Uganda would defy any ban, insisted Mugisha, winner of the Robert F Kennedy human rights award last year. “We are definitely continuing our operations and we will still hold conferences. We will continue to ask for the oppressive laws that are being used to intimidate us to be abolished.

“They have said they are going to pass the bill before October. That won’t stop us. We shall continue to fight until all the legislation is cleared and we are free. Things are changing. It cannot be oppression forever.”

Mohammad Ndifuna, the director of Human Rights Network Uganda, another of the organisations to be banned, told Reuters: “We know that they have been all kinds of threats coming towards the [NGO] sector for different reasons.”

Uganda to Ban 38 NGOs Over Gay Rights

Jim Burroway

June 20th, 2012

Uganda is turning a very dark corner if this Reuters article is correct:

Uganda said on Wednesday it was banning 38 non-governmental organizations it accuses of promoting homosexuality and recruiting children.

…Ethics Minister Simon Lokodo told Reuters the organizations being targeted were receiving support from abroad for Uganda’s homosexuals and accused gays and lesbians of “recruiting” young children in the country into homosexuality.

“The NGOs are channels through which monies are channeled to (homosexuals) to recruit,” the minister, a former Catholic priest, said. He did not name which organizations were on the list.

…”I have got a record of meetings that they have held to empower, enhance and recruit (homosexuals),” Lokodo said.

Lokodo has personally led a raid on an LGBT rights workshop in Entebbe last February, and he raided another one on Monday. Ironically, the topic of Monday’s workshop was on monitoring human rights violations.

Meanwhile, Uganda’s MP David Bahati, who currently holds the position of caucus chair for the ruling National Resistance Movement in Parliament, said yesterday that he expects Parliament to begin debate on the Anti-Homosexuality Bill sometime during its next session, which begins next week. Despite persistent reports to the contrary, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill still includes the death penalty.

The Anti-Homosexuality Bill would also ban all advocacy by or on behalf of gay people, whether that advocacy takes place individually or as part of organizations. Even though the Anti-Homosexuality Bill is not law in Uganda, Lokodo is behaving as though Clause 13 was already law.  Uganda now has made it a matter of governmental policy to deny its citizens the rights of association, assembly and speech. You can now also add the disregard for the rule of law to the wholesale violations Lokodo is committing:

Mohammad Ndifuna, the director of Human Rights Network Uganda, one of the organizations to be banned, said the minister’s threat was part of a larger attack on civil society in Uganda.

“We know that they have been all kinds of threats coming towards the (NGO) sector for different reasons,” said Ndifuna.

Ugandan Parliament Leader Says Anti-Homosexuality Bill Will Be Taken Up In Next Session

Jim Burroway

June 19th, 2012

That is the lede that was deeply buried in this report from Uganda’s NTV:

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Towards the end of this clip, MP David Bahati, the sponsor of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, told NTV’s reporter:

The current legal regime in the penal code act is so weak, that’s why we brought in the bill to strengthen it. [edit] And we have been assured by Hon. Tashobya that he is going to work on this bill this time in session.

Bahati is the caucus leader of the ruling party, the National Resistance Movement. MP Stephen Tashobya is chairman of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee, which is responsible for rewind and recommending changes to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

The NTV report errs in saying that the bill would provide a lifetime sentence for LGBT people. It would, as that is one of the penalties spelled out in the bill. But that implies that the death penalty has been removed from the bill. That is not true. The last time the bill went through Tashobya’s committee in 2011, his committee recommended removing the explicit language of “suffer(ing) death,” and replacing it with a reference to the penalties provided in an unrelated existing law — which just happens to specify the death penalty. Which means that the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee recommended that the death penalty be retained through stealth. Bahati then went on to claim that the death penalty was removed even though it was still a part of the bill. The Eighth Parliament ended last year before it could act on the committee’s recommendation. After the Ninth Parliament convened, the original language of the bill, including its death penalty, was reintroduced and referred back to Tashobya’s committee.

The occasion for this news report was yesterday’s raid on a workshop at Esella Country Hotel in the Kampala suburb of Najjeera. The workshop yesterday was intended to provide training in monitoring human rights violations to Ugandan LGBT advocates, who instead saw their own freedoms of assembly, association and speech violated by the raid from Ugandan police. The head of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of Kampala’s police says that his investigation into whether any laws were broken is ongoing. The CID is routinely called upon to handle politically repressive actions on behalf of the government.

According to Daily Monitor, Uganda’s largest independent newspaper, “At least five staff of the project were detained alongside 12 of the workshop participants while others escaped after being tipped off about the police raid.” The paper also reports that participants came in from Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania and quotes Michelle Kagari, the Amnesty deputy director for Africa, denouncing the raid as a “senseless and ludicrous harassment of rights activists which has no basis in law” She also said it was part of a larger pattern of intimidation of legitimate human rights work. (Daily Monitor and NTV are owned by the same media company based in neighboring Kenya.)

Ethics and Integrity Minister Fr. Simon Lokodo, a defrocked Catholic priest, also led a raid of a gay rights conference in Entebbe in February. He appears to be behind this raid as well, having tipped off NTV that the raid would take place several ours before police arived. Lokodo in this report said that that he will make sure that “all is done to bring them to book” (to be charged with a crime). He also reiterated that “everybody else will know that at least in Uganda we have no room here for homosexuals and lesbians.” He also denounced international pressure on Uganda to respect the human rights of all its citizens, including LGBT citizens, saying that Ugandans “would rather die poor than loose our dignity as Ugandans.”

Uganda Police Raid Gay Rights Meeting

Jim Burroway

June 18th, 2012

From Uganda’s NTV:

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AFP is reporting that Ugandan police on Monday raided a gay rights workshop in Kampala sponsored by the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project. Human rights advocates from Canada, Kenya and Rwanda were questioned. Police also reportedly forced themselves into some of the activists’ hotel rooms:

“This ludicrous and senseless harassment of human rights activists has no basis in law whatsoever and has to stop,” Michelle Kagari, Amnesty International’s deputy director for Africa, said in a statement.

“We are seeing a worrying pattern emerging whereby the Ugandan authorities engage in arbitrary activities deliberately designed to intimidate and threaten legitimate human rights work,” Kagari said.

The NTV report says that they were tipped by the Ethics and Integrity Minister Simon Lokodo about the raid at the Esella Country Hotel in the Kampala suburb of Najjeera. But reporters apparently arrived a couple of hours before the police. Pepe Julian Onziema of Sexual Minorities Uganda spoke to reporters and reminded them of another raid of a human rights workshop in Entebbe last February. No one was arrested at that raid. This time, NTV reports that four were detained, but were released after their lawyers showed up at the hotel.

Ironically, the workshop’s topic was on methods for monitoring human rights violations.

Ugandan TV Covers “American View” of Uganda’s “Battle Lines Over Gay Rights”

Jim Burroway

April 17th, 2012

NTV, Uganda’s largest independent television station, is broadcasting a series titled American View, which portrays an how Uganda comes across in America. This segment, titled “Battle over Gay Rights” is probably more accurately described as a Ugandan view of the American view of Uganda.

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The principal Ugandan spokesperson in this segment is Ethics and Integrity Minister Simon Lokodo, a defrocked Catholic priest, who raided a gay rights conference in Entebbe in February. In this segment, Lokodo points to a clause in the Ugandan Constitution which bars same-sex marriage and, incredibly, interprets that clause as a blanket ban on all activity related to LGBT advocacy, whether marriage is involved or not.

Eyewitness Gives Account of Raid On Entebbe

Jim Burroway

February 15th, 2012

Dr. Hilda Tadria, co-founder of the African Women’s Development Fund, was giving a talk at the LGBT conference in Entebbe, Uganda that was raided by Minister of Ethics and Integrity, Simon Lokodo. She has issued this statement describing the raid:

At a hotel in Entebbe this week, I was subjected to an experience that I would not wish upon my worst enemy. I am a recently retired (but not tired) almost 70 year old married mother of two and grandmother of seven. For many years, I have trained and mentored young people in leadership skills and the art of advocacy, particularly in connection with the subjects of Gender and Human Rights. On Tuesday I was invited to facilitate a session on leadership, using the the Four Frames of Leadership to a group of sexual minorities. Another facilitator at the meeting was Hope Chigudu. Like me, Hope is a law-abiding married mother of senior citizenship. A few hours into my session, the Hon. Rev. Simon Lokodo—Minister of Ethics and Integrity—walked into the room.

The Minister introduced himself and proceeded to give a lecture on ethics and morality. In addition, he accused the gathering of being an illegal assembly ‘recruiting’ people into homosexuality, even insinuating that we were having sex in the meeting room. Then, in a strange twist of events, the Minister declared the meeting disbanded. Everybody was just told to go home. Kasha Nabagesera, activist and conference Convenor was threatened with arrest, while one of the participants who came from Sweden was challenged to explain how she had even entered the country. Soon after closing the meeting, the Minister was heard telling somebody over the telephone, “Yes, I have just disbanded them.”

Prior to his entry into the meeting, the Minister sent a message to the conference Convenor requesting details of the meeting. The program and all the training materials relating to the conference were sent to him, and the Minister asked to sit in on the proceedings. There being nothing to hide, the Convenor invited him to attend the meeting. Little did we know that the Minister would flare up in anger, make baseless accusations about the gathering and order the meeting closed. I was personally shocked by the action of the Minister, and the level of violent infuriation and intolerance he displayed. For a man of God, I saw no compassion, a great deal of prejudice and an utter unwillingness to listen. The Minister was too angry to hear good sense and simply failed to respond to any pleas for reason, ignoring both myself and Hope.

Reflecting on what happened on Tuesday, it is quite clear to me that the Minister over-stepped all boundaries of rational behavior. But more importantly, he blatantly violated the Law. In the first instance, every Ugandan has the right to assemble, speak freely and to have an education. This was a workshop convened to conduct training in skills that every citizen is entitled to. Secondly, although the Minister even went so far as to make the laughable claim that the gathering could have been planning a military coup or was plotting to disrupt national security, there is not an iota of evidence to support either claim. But I was most shocked that the Minister asserted that the government had all the right and the power to stop any kind of gathering that was taking place anywhere in the country; what a statement of arrogance and unbridled power! I find this wholly unacceptable and unsupported by any provision in the law. It is well known that if a gathering is to be stopped, there must be reasonable grounds to do so accompanied by the relevant legal documents, such as a court instruction or a Police order. The Hon. Minister was in possession of neither.

Tuesday’s actions by the Hon. Minister do not have any support in the 1995 Constitution of Uganda, or in any law known to me. Indeed, as I look ahead to the future Uganda that I want my grandchildren to live and thrive in, it is not the one I witnessed on Tuesday. Impunity comes in many guises; while the fascist actions of that day focused on a small group of activists, there is no telling who the target will be tomorrow. Autocratic government officials like the Rev. Simon Lokodo belong to an era I thought we had left far behind.

Despite earlier reports that Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera was detained by police, LGBT advocates in Uganda say that she escaped detention, although she may still be in hiding. According to the online news portal UGPulse, “Lokodo says as the person mandated to maintain good morals in Uganda, it was his duty to ensure people do not meet to discuss ‘immoral acts’ in public places like hotels.” Uganda’s Observer reports that Lokodo, a defrocked Catholic priest, claimed the conference gatherers were “planning violence” and were “gathered to recruit people into the practice of homosexuality.”

Sexual Minorities Uganda has condemned the raid:

SMUG condemns this outright abuse of office by the State Minister of Ethics and Integrity.

According to Frank Mugisha one of the Coordinators of the Capacity Development workshop and present at the time; ‘’Closing our workshop today totally violates our constitutional rights and this intimidation will not stop us from fighting, for equal treatment of all Ugandan citizens.’’ Frank Mugisha is the Executive Director of SMUG and 2011 Robert F Kennedy Human Rights Award Laureate

The Minister also ordered the arrest of Kasha Jacqueline Nabagasera, the Executive Director of Freedom and Roam Uganda and 2011 Laureate of the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders when she dared to challenge him for disrupting the workshop. Kasha with the help of colleagues was whisked out of the hotel to safety.

The State Minister’s actions are illegal and in direct contravention of the Constitution of Uganda, The African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, among other international human rights covenants to which Uganda is a party. These human rights instruments all robustly promote and protect the rights to Freedom of Speech, Expression, Association, Peaceful Assembly and the Right to Information of all citizens and human beings, without discrimination.

Sexual Minorities Uganda strongly condemns this notorious and continuous attempt to prevent lawful and peaceful activities of human rights defenders in Uganda. Our campaign for equal rights is rooted in the fact that, as Ugandans, we are entitled to the respect and protection of the law just like all other Ugandans.

Actions:

1. We call on the Government of Uganda to protect the rights of citizens to peacefully assemble and associate as is guaranteed in our Constitution and in international human rights law.

2. We call on the Government of Uganda to protect all peoples within her borders against threats, violence and harassment by state and non-state actors, irrespective of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

3. We call on the Government and people of Uganda to reject the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill which would only serve to further violate international human rights law and plant seeds of hate, intolerance and violence in Ugandan society.

4. We call on the Ugandan people to reject the government’s move to use homosexuality issues to divert Ugandans’ attention from the most pertinent issues that are affecting the nation.

The East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project has also condemned the raid:

The East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (EHAHRDP) condemns this infringement on the right to freedom of assembly and association as provided by the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, and calls on the Minister of State for Ethics and Integrity to explain the grounds on which the actions were taken. EHAHRDP recalls the rights of human rights defenders to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without harassment or intimidation as provided by the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.

Ugandan TV Coverage of the Raid on Entebbe

Jim Burroway

February 14th, 2012
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The report includes a grandstanding Ethics and Integrity Minister Simon Lokodo, who summarily declared the meeting of LGBT leaders illegal despite the absense of a law making it so.  LGBT advocate Pepe Julian Onziema counters that there is nothing illegal about what they were doing. Clause 13 of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill would make meetings like this one illegal, but it hasn’t been passed by Parliament.  If Ugandan authorities can break up a private meeting without a law, imagine what would happen if the Anti-Homosexuality Bill passed?

Raid On Entebbe: Uganda Government Shuts Down LGBT Rights Conference

Jim Burroway

February 14th, 2012

Kasha Jacqueline Nabageser

The African web site Behind the Mask led with the story this morning:

Kasha Jacqueline, the Director of Lesbian Rights group Freedom and Roam Uganda was briefly arrested today after a Ugandan cabinet minister staged a raid on a meeting of LGBTI activists and human rights defenders.

Activists at the meeting said police were deployed to ensure activists leave the premises. …Kasha’s close friends have since told Behind the Mask that she has been set free.

The cabinet minister’s raid forcefully stopped the meeting of LGBTI activists who had gathered for a capacity building workshop for human rights defenders.

The raid was personally led by Ethics and Integrity minister Simon Lokodo, a defrocked Catholic priest, who accused the gay rights advocates of “recruiting children into the gay life,” according to Behind the Mask. He also ordered the arrest of Kasha Jacqueline Nabageser, but she fled the hotel and was able to avoid Lokodo’s security guards.  Daily Monitor, Uganda’s largest independent newspaper, picks up the story:

“I have closed this conference because it’s illegal. We do not accept homosexuality in Uganda. So go back home,” Minister Lokodo told the participants.

Hotel staff had been asked by the organisers not to direct anyone to Elgon hall where the conference was taking place unless the person had been cleared. This would have required a phone call from the organisers.

The Minister said the hotel’s management apologized for hosting the event.

According to Daily Monitor, the conference was being held over the course of two weeks at the Imperial Resort Beach Hotel in Entebbe, and was due to wrap up today with an evening barbecue at the hotel’s pool.

Ethics and Integrity Minister Simon Lokodo

Last week, Lokodo signed a statement posted on Uganda’s official press web site distancing the government from the Anti-Homosexuality Bill which had been reintroduced into Parliament. While he tried to distance the government from the bill, Lokodo also lectured the international community that “cultural attitudes in Africa are very different to elsewhere in world,” and that “the bill before parliament even if it were to pass, would not sanction the death penalty for homosexual behavior in Uganda.” Despite Lokodo’s statement, the death penalty is still firmly in place in the proposed bill. He also falsely asserted that “the main provisions of this bill were designed to stem the issue of defilement and rape which in the minds of Ugandan’s is a more pressing and urgent matter that needs to be addressed.” A look at the bill however makes clear that the issues of “defilement and rape” are little more than afterthoughts which provide a fig leaf to cover the bill’s direct assault against Uganda’s gay community.

It is not uncommon for the Ugandan government to violate the free assembly rights of its citizens. It has been a routine practice where political opposition leaders are concerned for several years. More specific to the gay community, Lokodo’s predecessor, James Nsaba Buturo, blocked the screening of a documentary film depicting LGBT human rights workers in December 2010 .

In 2011, Kasha Jacqueline Nabageser was awarded the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders.

Uganda Executive, Parliament Tussle Over Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Jim Burroway

February 9th, 2012

The Uganda Media Centre, which serves as something of a press office for Uganda President Yoweri Museveni, has issued a statement distancing itself from the Anti-Homosexuality Bill which was reintroduced into Parliament this week.

ANTI-HOMOSEXUAL BILL

***Wednesday 8th February 2012***17:00 hour
***No Embargo***
RESPONSE TO INTERNATIONAL CRITICISM OF DEBATE ON ANTI-HOMOSEXUAL BILL.

Uganda has today been the subject of mass international criticism as a result of the debate on the Anti-Homosexual Bill at parliament. What many of these critics fail to convey is the bill itself was introduced by a back bencher. It does not form part of the government’s legislative programme and it does not enjoy the support of the Prime Minister or the Cabinet. However as Uganda is a constitutional democracy, it is appropriate that if a private members bill is presented to parliament it be debated.

Cultural attitudes in Africa are very different to elsewhere in world, 2/3 of African countries outlaw homosexual activity and 80% of east African countries criminalize it. Whilst on a global level more than 80 countries outlaw homosexual acts. Contrary to reports, the bill before parliament even if it were to pass, would not sanction the death penalty for homosexual behavior in Uganda.

Many international governments and politicians, who have criticized Uganda for debating this private members bill, remain mute in the face of far graver and far more draconian legislation relating to homosexuality in other countries. One might ask for example, if Uganda enjoyed as close a relationship with the US and European countries as Saudi Arabia (which sentences homosexuals to corporal and capital punishment) would we have attracted the same opprobrium as a result of allowing this parliamentary debate.

Unlike many other countries, no one in Uganda has ever been charged with the criminal offence of homosexuality. Moreover the main provisions of this bill were designed to stem the issue of defilement and rape which in the minds of Ugandan’s is a more pressing and urgent matter that needs to be addressed.

As a parliamentary democracy this process of debate will continue. Whilst the government of Uganda does not support this bill, it is required under our constitution to facilitate this debate. The facilitation of this debate should not be confused for the governments support for this bill.

For God and my Country
Minister of State for Ethics and Integrity Hon. Lokodo Simon

There are a couple of points that must be addressed in this statement. First, if the bill is passed, it most certainly does include the death penalty “for homosexual behavior in Uganda.” Despite numerous false reports to the contrary, that provision is still in the bill. We now have confirmation that it was the original 2009 language of the bill which received its first reading on Tuesday. Throughout this saga, there have been numerous conflicting claims that there are agreements to remove the death penalty provisions (claims which have now been going on for more than two years’ running), but the closest we’ve come to it has been a proposal to make minor, inconsequential changes in the language which keeps the death penalty in place.

Second, the statement also says that “main provisions of this bill were designed to stem the issue of defilement and rape.” I’ll leave you to inspect the actual text of the bill itself, along with its proposed changes. The issue of “defilement and rape,” at most, occupies perhaps a dozen or so words in the entire eighteen clauses of the bill.

But let’s return to the bigger question: what’s going on here? The Ugandan Government has repeatedly tried to “reject” the bill, but Parliament, despite the ruling party’s nearly complete dominance over the body, continues to push it forward. Parliament’s motivation appears to be twofold. First, there is a genuine backlash brewing against what is seen as foreign meddling in Uganda’s sovereignty, a backlash which is fueled by the perceptions that Uganda is being treated as a colony of rich white Europeans and Americans.

But that doesn’t tell the whole story. One Ugandan observer who writes the blog SebaSpace believes that the dynamics are as much internal as external. Corruption is endemic in all branches of government, and with the Ugandan government signing oil contracts right and left while keeping Parliament in the dark to exploit recently-found deposits in western Uganda, and with members of Parliament also scrambling to seek their own piece of the public pie, and all of that coupled with a general dissatisfaction with an autocratic president who has sat on the executive throne, as it were, for more than a quarter century, and what you now have is a classic power grab:

Parliament is still smarting from the humiliation President Museveni dealt them on this bill in January 2010. Bahati had mobilized them, led them up the hill and then brought them back down with tails between their legs when Museveni told them in his characterically condescending manner that the matter was a foreign policy issue that only he dealt with. They have never forgiven him for that slight.

Parliament has thus been seething in a state of pique at having been publicly shown to be impotent in the face of a dismissive executive. It wasn’t the first time he had done that, of course, but this one rankled especially because Museveni made no secret of the fact that he was acting at the behest of foreigners.

Such is the hunger for Parliament to show that they matter in Uganda that, at the time in 2010, even Beti Kamya, a friend of the gay community if there ever was one, waded in and lectured the donor community about Parliament’s independence in Uganda.

…Parliament is in a such a mutinous mood that they will thumb their noses at Uganda’s donors to pass this heinous bill – just to prove to themselves that they actually matter, even if the consequences for Uganda’s foreign aid could be dire – a classic case of cutting off their noses to spite their faces

Ugandan Television Reports on US Foreign Policy Initiative for LGBT Human Rights

Jim Burroway

December 7th, 2011

NTV is owned by the same company that publishes Daily Monitor, Uganda’s largest independent newspaper. This news report was posted to their YouTube channel just moments ago:

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The report itself is very calm and measured. But it does reflect prevailing opinion not only in Uganda but through much of Africa when the reporter asks at the end, “Will Uganda blink and bow to the pressure?” The image of bowing, as you can imagine given Africa’s history, has a very specific humiliative resonance that goes much deeper than much of the rest of the world. The three lawmakers in the report — Anti-Homosexuality Bill author M.P. David Bahati, M.P. Steven Ochola of the opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDP), and Ethics and Integrity Minister Simon Lokodo (Lokodo is identified as “Rev. Fr.,” despite having been defrocked by the Vatican) — all spoke against Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s remarks in Geneva. Human rights lawyer Ladislaus Rwakafuzi suggests that a sort of “don’t ask, don’t tell” compromise might be the best way to go for Uganda’s LGBT community.

Update: Paul Canning pointed me to this question which NTV has put on its Facebook page. The responses are pretty fascinating. Yes, there are some pretty odious comments. But at least on Facebook, those East Africans who are defending gay rights as human rights are not exactly shrinking violets. I would ordinarily suggest that you chime in, but as it is, we have plenty of people in Uganda making the case to  fellow Ugandans for fellow Ugandans. That’s always good to see.

Uganda’s Ethics Minister Defrocked By Vatican

Jim Burroway

August 28th, 2011

The Ugandan government-aligned New Vision newspaper reports today that Uganda’s new Ethics and Integrity Minister, Fr. Simon Lokodo, is no long a Catholic priest. According to New Vision, Lokodo violated Roman Catholic canon law which forbids priests from holding political office.

The Vatican’s action was slow in coming. Lokodo had long been a parish priest when in 2006 he became a member of Parliament for Dodoth County after his predecessor had passed away. The Ugandan Catholic hierarchy had already criticized his participation in politics, and he was reportedly suspended from his pastoral duties during the election over “a parish administrative glitch.” From 2009 to May, 2011, he served as State Minister for Industry and Technology, and was appointed Ethics Minister after James Nsaba Buturo, an ardent supporter of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, resigned after losing his seat in chaotic party primaries held in late 2010.